Best Fishing in TN: Top 15 Spots for Trophy Bass & More (2024)

Tennessee, with its diverse waterways and abundant fish populations, is an angler’s paradise. From serene mountain streams to expansive reservoirs, the Volunteer State offers year-round opportunities to land trophy catches. This comprehensive guide highlights the top 15 fishing spots in Tennessee for 2024, along with seasonal patterns, techniques, and tips for a successful outing.

1. Dale Hollow Lake: Smallmouth Bass Heaven

Dale Hollow Lake stands out as a world-class smallmouth bass fishery. Known for its crystal-clear waters and record-breaking catches, this lake offers:

  • Home to the world record smallmouth bass (11 pounds, 15 ounces)
  • Pristine conditions ideal for trophy smallmouth
  • Diverse fishing spots including quiet coves and deep ledges

Best Techniques: Jig fishing along rocky points and drop-offs is highly effective. During summer, try night fishing with large plastic worms for big smallmouth.

2. Chickamauga Lake: Largemouth Bass Paradise

Chickamauga Lake has gained fame as a premier destination for largemouth bass:

  • Consistently produces trophy-sized largemouth bass
  • Abundant aquatic vegetation provides excellent fish habitat
  • Year-round fishing opportunities with peak seasons in spring and fall

Pro Tip: Focus on fishing the grass edges with topwater frogs during early morning hours for explosive strikes.

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Trout Fishing Excellence

The streams of the Great Smoky Mountains offer unparalleled trout fishing experiences:

  • Home to rainbow, brown, and brook trout
  • Pristine mountain settings with crystal-clear waters
  • Ideal for fly fishing enthusiasts

Insider Advice: Hire a local guide to discover hidden gems and master the art of mountain stream fishing.

4. Reelfoot Lake: Crappie and Bluegill Haven

Formed by earthquakes in the early 19th century, Reelfoot Lake is renowned for its:

  • Excellent crappie and bluegill fishing
  • Unique cypress tree-studded landscape
  • Shallow waters perfect for bank fishing and boat anglers alike

Seasonal Strategy: Visit in early spring for the best crappie action, using minnows or small jigs around submerged structure.

5. Center Hill Lake: Diverse Fishing Opportunities

Center Hill Lake offers a mix of game fish species and stunning scenery:

  • Known for walleye, smallmouth bass, and striped bass
  • Deep, clear waters surrounded by picturesque bluffs
  • Great for trolling and vertical jigging techniques

Local Secret: Try night fishing for walleye during summer months using crawler harnesses.

6. Kentucky Lake: Bass Fishing Mecca

Kentucky Lake, part of the Tennessee River system, is a bass angler’s dream:

  • Vast expanses of water with numerous fishing hotspots
  • Famous for its ledge fishing opportunities
  • Hosts numerous professional bass tournaments annually

Tournament Tactic: During summer, focus on main lake ledges using deep-diving crankbaits and large plastic worms.

7. Percy Priest Lake: Urban Fishing at Its Best

Located near Nashville, Percy Priest Lake offers excellent fishing close to the city:

  • Great for largemouth bass, crappie, and striped bass
  • Numerous access points and fishing piers
  • Perfect for kayak fishing enthusiasts

Urban Angler Tip: Explore the many coves and creek arms for bass, especially during early morning and late evening hours.

8. Norris Lake: Clear Water Fishing Paradise

Norris Lake, with its clear, deep waters, provides a unique fishing experience:

  • Home to striped bass, smallmouth bass, and walleye
  • Scenic beauty with numerous secluded coves
  • Excellent night fishing opportunities

Night Fishing Strategy: Target striped bass after dark using large live baits or artificial lures near lighted docks.

9. Tims Ford Lake: Trophy Smallmouth Destination

Tims Ford Lake is gaining recognition for its quality smallmouth bass fishing:

  • Clear, cool waters ideal for smallmouth bass
  • Scenic shorelines with numerous rocky points and bluffs
  • Also offers good crappie and largemouth bass fishing

Seasonal Approach: Focus on main lake points and humps during fall for trophy smallmouth using jigs and soft plastics.

10. Pickwick Lake: Multi-Species Angling

Pickwick Lake, shared by Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, offers diverse fishing opportunities:

  • Famous for smallmouth bass, catfish, and striped bass
  • Tailwater area below the dam is a year-round hotspot
  • Hosts numerous fishing tournaments throughout the year

Tailwater Technique: Try vertical jigging with spoons or blade baits for a mix of species below the dam.

11. Old Hickory Lake: Nashville’s Backyard Fishery

Old Hickory Lake, just outside Nashville, provides excellent fishing close to the city:

  • Known for largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish
  • Numerous boat ramps and access points
  • Great for both recreational and tournament anglers

Urban Fishing Tip: Explore the many creek arms and coves for bass, especially during early morning and late evening hours.

12. Watts Bar Lake: Diverse Fishing Opportunities

Watts Bar Lake offers a mix of game fish species and stunning scenery:

  • Home to striped bass, largemouth bass, and catfish
  • Numerous islands and coves provide excellent structure
  • Great for trolling and casting techniques

Striper Strategy: Try trolling large swimbaits or live shad along main lake channels for trophy stripers.

13. Douglas Lake: Bass and Crappie Hotspot

Douglas Lake is known for its excellent bass and crappie fishing:

  • Hosts numerous bass tournaments throughout the year
  • Excellent crappie fishing, especially during spring spawning season
  • Diverse structure including submerged timber and rocky points

Crappie Tactics: Use light tackle and small jigs around brush piles and submerged timber for spring crappie.

14. Cherokee Lake: Year-Round Fishing Action

Cherokee Lake offers diverse fishing opportunities throughout the year:

  • Known for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and crappie
  • Clear waters with numerous rocky points and ledges
  • Excellent night fishing for crappie during summer months

Night Fishing Tip: Use submersible lights to attract baitfish and crappie during warm summer nights.

15. Melton Hill Lake: Musky and Bass Paradise

Melton Hill Lake is gaining recognition for its musky and bass fishing:

  • One of the few lakes in Tennessee with a thriving musky population
  • Excellent largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing
  • Clear waters with numerous rocky structures

Musky Madness: Use large bucktail spinners or jerkbaits for a chance at landing a trophy musky.

Seasonal Fishing Patterns in Tennessee

Understanding seasonal patterns is crucial for successful fishing in Tennessee:

Spring (March-May)

  • Bass spawn in shallower waters
  • Crappie fishing peaks
  • Trout become more active in mountain streams

Summer (June-August)

  • Early morning and late evening fishing most productive
  • Catfish activity increases in rivers and lakes
  • Deep water tactics effective for bass

Fall (September-November)

  • Bass feed aggressively to prepare for winter
  • Excellent time for all species as waters cool
  • Scenic foliage enhances fishing experience

Winter (December-February)

  • Trout fishing remains strong in tailwaters
  • Crappie can be caught through ice fishing in some areas
  • Striped bass fishing peaks in some reservoirs

Essential Gear for Tennessee Fishing

Ensure you’re well-equipped for your Tennessee fishing adventure:

  • Rod and reel appropriate for your target species
  • Variety of lures and live bait options
  • Fishing line suited to the fish you’re targeting
  • Pliers for hook removal
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Polarized sunglasses to reduce glare on the water
  • Waders or waterproof boots for stream fishing

Conservation and Regulations

Tennessee takes fish conservation seriously. Anglers should familiarize themselves with:

  • Creel limits and size restrictions for different species
  • Seasonal closures and special regulations in certain areas
  • Proper catch and release techniques to minimize fish stress

By following these guidelines, anglers help ensure that Tennessee’s fisheries remain healthy and productive for years to come.

Hiring a Guide: Maximizing Your Tennessee Fishing Experience

For those new to fishing in Tennessee or looking to quickly learn the best spots and techniques, hiring a professional fishing guide can be invaluable. Here’s why:

  • Local Knowledge: Guides know the best spots and current patterns
  • Technique Instruction: Learn proper techniques for specific species and waters
  • Equipment Provision: Many guides provide all necessary gear
  • Increased Catch Rates: Benefit from years of experience on the water

Booking Tip: Reserve guides well in advance, especially for peak seasons and popular lakes.

Tennessee Fishing License Information

Before casting your line, ensure you have the proper licensing:

  • Residents and non-residents require a valid Tennessee fishing license
  • Various license types available, including short-term and annual options
  • Special trout license required for trout fishing
  • Some areas may require additional permits

Visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website for the most up-to-date licensing information and to purchase your license online.

Conclusion: Tennessee’s Angling Paradise

Tennessee’s diverse aquatic ecosystems provide anglers with endless opportunities to pursue their passion. From the world-class smallmouth bass fishing at Dale Hollow Lake to the pristine trout streams of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Volunteer State offers something for every angler.

Whether you’re targeting trophy largemouth bass at Chickamauga Lake, enjoying the unique atmosphere of Reelfoot Lake, or exploring the urban fishing opportunities near Nashville, Tennessee’s waters promise unforgettable fishing experiences.

Remember to respect the environment, follow local regulations, and practice responsible fishing techniques to help preserve these incredible resources for future generations of anglers. With proper planning, the right gear, and a spirit of adventure, your Tennessee fishing trip is sure to create lasting memories and perhaps even land you that fish of a lifetime.

So grab your rod, pack your tackle box, and get ready to explore the best fishing spots Tennessee has to offer in 2024. The waters are calling, and the fish are waiting!

Does Tennessee Have Good Fishing?

Tennessee offers excellent fishing opportunities, with abundant lakes and rivers teeming with various fish species.

What’s The Best Time To Fish In Tennessee?

The best time to fish in Tennessee is typically early morning or late afternoon, particularly during spring and fall seasons.

Where To Catch Big Bass In Tennessee?

Catch big bass in Tennessee at Chickamauga Lake, known for record-sized fish. Also try Kentucky Lake for abundant bass populations and Lake Nickajack for trophy catches.

What Is The Rarest Fish To Catch In Tennessee?

The rarest fish to catch in Tennessee is the Pallid Sturgeon, a species listed as endangered.

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